ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL.
This house has been variously designated. In the charter of Bishop Pudsey, it is
called, "The Hospital of Newcastle;" and in that of Henry II. to the nuns, "of St.
Mary the Blessed Virgin of the West Gate." In a record from Bishop Langley's
Register, it is named, "of St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist;" also the "West
Spital;" and, since the Hospital of the Trinitarians has been generally forgotten, "the
Spittle," or "Spital," which is an evident corruption of hospital.
This establishment, anciently consisting of an hospital and a chapel, was founded
in the reign of Henry II. by one Aselack, of Killinghowe, or Killingworth, (fn. 1) who
gave the ground, and placed therein two friars regular, and a chaplain, to serve God
and the poor; farther intending it to be a place of entertainment for the indigent
clergy, and such pilgrims as were passing this way.
Hugh Pudsey, who was made bishop of Durham in 1154, and died in 1192,
granted a charter of episcopal confirmation to this hospital; and which is still preserved among the writings of the house. A charter of confirmation was also granted
by Henry II. from which it appears to have been dependant upon the nunnery of St.
Bartholomew. Bourne supposes it was a cell to that convent. (fn. 2) Another charter of
royal confirmation was granted by king Richard I. (fn. 3)
Robert de Heddon, clerk, with the consent and confirmation of his lord, Walter
de Bolbeck, gave a yearly sum to the support of this hospital, probably on its first
foundation, and on condition that the fraternity should pray for the soul of his said
lord, and for his own and those of his ancestors. This donation, Bourne observes,
was probably made before the time of mayors; for no mayor's name, as principal
witness, is affixed to the deed. Other witnesses are, Reginald de Benwell, John
Morress, and others.
Adam de Neusum, for the sake of his own soul, that of Eve his wife, and those of
his ancestors and heirs, granted to the fraternity of this hospital, in free, pure, and
perpetual alms, all the land they held in the village of Newsham, remitting to them
an annual rent of 13d. for the same. This grant is signed by Peter Scot, mayor,
who was the first appointed to this office, in 1251.
King Henry III. in 1253, granted a charter for liberties to this hospital; and about
the year 1257, Julian, daughter of Agnes Blanch, made it a charitable donation, on
condition that the fraternity prayed for her soul, and for the souls of her ancestors,
and that she should be supplied with a lodging there whenever she visited Newcastle
Martin Coyman occurs presenting a messuage to this hospital in 1259, and Roger
de Quintingham as a benefactor in 1269. (fn. 4)
About the year 1269, Gerard, preacher or master of this hospital, with the brethren, demised to Robert, chaplain of Bingefeldthune and his assigns, at the annual
rent of 12d. two acres of land and a toft, which had been given them by Godfrey,
Lord of Bingefeld, in free, pure, and perpetual alms, for the sake of his own soul
and the souls of his ancestors; and about the same time, the said Gerard and his
brethren granted to Udard, son of Richard of Pilgrim Street, the land that had been
given them in pure and perpetual alms by John Skinner, to hold of the said hospital
at an annual rent of 5s.
In 1290, the brethren of this hospital, on their petition to the king in parliament,
setting forth, that the new town wall of Newcastle had been built through the middle
of their court-yard, leaving the greater part of their edifices on the outside thereof,
obtained a patent for making a postern-gate of communication through the said wall.
In 1296, king Edward I. granted letters of protection to the master of this hospital. These protections to religious houses extended to their persons, servants, lands,
rents, possessions, goods, and chattels. The king also granted a licence of mortmain,
in 1304, to enable John de Insula (Lisle) to demise to the master and brethren of
this hospital a messuage, four shops, and a rent of 16s. in the town of Newcastle
upon Tyne; as also a messuage, with its appurtenances, in the said town, which Dionisia, relict of Laurence Swayn, held of the said John as her dower, and which had
reverted to him at her death.
It appears from an original record, without date, that Geofry, son of Gerard of
Whickham, and grandfather of Robert of Whickham (who confirmed the donation),
had given to this hospital, in pure and perpetual alms, a pound of pepper and a pound
of cinnamon, payable annually out of a capital messuage in that village for ever.
King Edward III. for the relief of this hospital, the possessions of which had been
destroyed by various inroads of the Scots, granted a license, dated at Newcastle upon
Tyne, August 2, 1334, to the fraternity of that house, to acquire lands, tenements,
and rents, to the yearly value of 100s. notwithstanding the statute of mortmain. In
consequence of this license, it appears that, eighteen years afterwards, the house had
purchased lands and tenements to the value of 64s. per annum.
In 1335, Richard de Bury, bishop of Durham, granted a charter of confirmation to
this hospital; and in 1343, it obtained a remission of all the right of Joan, widow of
Nicholas de Ellirker, of Newcastle, in the lands and tenements which reverted to her
as her dower, but which this house then held by the gift of her said husband. Gilbert Palmer, in 1347, also granted to the master and brethren of this hospital a messuage and ten acres of land, in the town and territory of Newbigging on the Moor.
In a charter of confirmation, granted by king Edward III. in 1351, this fraternity
is styled, "the prior and brethren." In 1369, Thomas Hatfield, bishop of Durham,
on the death of Friar William de Norton, created Robert de Morton canon of the
church of the Blessed Mary, in West Gate, Newcastle, of the order of St. Austin,
prior of that church. He had been elected before by an authority which the bishop
refused to admit.
King Edward III. having granted a licence to Allan Pulthore, of Newcastle, to
assign a rent of 100s. out of three messuages in that town, to a chaplain, to perform
daily service in a chantry in All Saints' church, for the souls of all the faithful, and
which the said Allan neglected to perform; the king made a similar grant to John
the son and heir of Allan. This John duly assigned the said rents to this fraternity,
till, the tenements becoming empty, no rents could be raised; upon which, the said
John, anxious to preserve the chantry, assigned the three messuages themselves to
this fraternity, who being thus in possession, with the royal licence, the king, in 1378,
on a fine of ten pounds being paid him by William de Norton, master, and the brethren of the house, granted a licence of mortmain, confirming the gift of the messuages instead of the rents to the said house.
In 1401, Brother William de Burnham, prior and master of the hospital of St.
Mary, in West Gate, granted a messuage, and three shops, before the great gate of
the castle of Newcastle, to John White, draper and burgess of that town, at the annual rent of 37s. Upon the death of this William de Burnham, which happened
August 9, 1412, William Karlell and Robert Lekynfeld, the then only surviving
regular brethren of this hospital (called, at this time, "The Hospital of the Blessed
Virgin and St. John the Evangelist"), transferred their right to elect a new master to
Thomas Langley, then bishop of Durham. The bishop, in the following year, collated the above-named William Karlell, who resigned in 1416.
In 1416, the bishop of Durham issued a citation to warn the master of his intention to visit this house, and at the same time a commission for the safe keeping of
the goods of the hospital. The bishop also, in 1426, issued a sentence of excommunication against every person stealing the goods of this house. (fn. 5) In 1429, the elder
Roger Thornton bequeathed two fothers of lead to the reparation of this hospital.
The revenues of this hospital, in 1535, were valued at £26, 13s. 4d. (fn. 6) It came to
the crown by the statute of the 31st Henry VIII. in 1540, for the dissolution of abbies, priories, colleges, and hospitals; but it never appears to have come in charge
before the auditors of the county of Northumberland, nor to have paid rent to the
king's receiver there. The house, with the rents thereof, were still enjoyed; and the
corporation of Newcastle presented a master to the bishop of Durham, as though the
foundation had not been dissolved, or reverted to the crown. (fn. 7)
A grant is said to have been made, in 1551, of the West Spital to the Duke of
Northumberland, as a parcel of the monastry of Tynemouth; (fn. 8) but it afterwards seems
to have been granted in fee-simple by queen Elizabeth, under the great seal, to be
held in soccage. (fn. 9)
King James I. granted a new charter to this hospital, dated May 27, 1611; the
preamble whereof sets forth, that John Raymes, a former master of this house, had,
in the rebellion in the north, been committed to Durham gaol, when the original
charters, grants, and letters patent, concerning the foundation of this place, had been
lost; as also, that attempts had been made by some persons to appropriate the possessions of the hospital to their own use: whereupon it is to be founded anew, and decreed
to consist of a master, who should, at least, be a Master of Arts, and of six unmarried
poor old men, constituting together a body politic in law, having a common seal, with
power to sue and be sued, to let leases, &c. the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle to
be the patrons. The king granted the house of the hospital at the same time, with
all its possessions, under an annual rent of 13s. 4d.
A question having arisen, upon some expressions in the new charter of this hospital, whether the master's office was presentative or donative, it was answered by
Henry Yelverton, July 19, 1623, in the subsequent words:—"If this church, or
place, was anciently presentative, the king's new grant doth not, nor can, make it
donative, especially as the grant is made, for the patrons are to enjoy it as formerly
they did, or ought to enjoy it; and if the patrons should attempt to make it donative, the bishop of the diocese, after six months passed without presentation, may
collate by lapse, for a church once presentative cannot, without act of parliament, or
after dissolution thereof, become donative."
About the year 1738, upon a question, whether the mayor and burgesses, who, as
visitors, had made an order that no leases should be let, without their consent, and
had ordered a schedule of all the papers, leases, &c. to be delivered to them, had a
right to do so—Dud. Ryder gave the following opinion:—"That the master and
brethren may make leases for three lives, reserving the ancient rent, and take fines
on granting such leases, the power by charter of granting leases reserving the last
rent doth not abridge the power they have as a corporation. The master and brethren are not bound to obey the order of the mayor and burgesses, not to grant
leases without their consent, but as the mayor and burgesses are visitors, the hospital
ought to return such schedule as ordered. And the mayor and burgesses have a
right to regulate the distribution of the profits of the estate, and to increase the maintenance and payment of the brethren, so far as is reasonable, though different from
the proportions usually observed." (fn. 10)
The most important general meetings of the townsmen seem to have been anciently held in this hospital. A full guild was held at the hospital of St. Mary,
West Gate, on the Friday before Valentine-day, 1343, when several articles were
1669. John Bewick, A. M. occurs as master.
agreed upon for the better government of the town, which were sealed under the
common seal of the corporation, and afterwards received the royal confirmation. It
is also mentioned, in the ordinary of the Drapers' Company, dated June 1, 1512, that
the election of the mayor and officers of the town had been, by the ancient usage of
that place, held in this hospital.
When the great charter of the 42d of Elizabeth was obtained, the chancel of the
old church of this hospital was converted into an election-room for the corporation of
Newcastle.* "The grand eastern window," writes Brand, "now entirely built up, contained in its painted, or stained glass, an image of the Virgin Mary, with her child on her
knees. In this window, also, Sir George Selby, who was mayor in 1600, put up his
own arms, and made, as Bourne adds, 'a traverse over it, and sent to London for
twenty-four chairs of mustinie leather (quære), and there is the election, though the
mayor lays down his staff in the old school,' i. e. in the place which is now the writing school, and was formerly the grammar school, before the present one was fitted
up. To do this, it appears they have pulled down the side aisles of the hospital
church, and inclosed the middle aisle by a wall on each side, under the arches. There
has been a large window, now built up also, at the west end. This was plainly discovered at the opening out of one of these arches, on making a new entrance to this
place, A. D. 1782. The present wood floor of the school covers the pavement of the
old chapel or church, which consisted of Dutch tiles, of different colours, disposed
lozenge-wise. There is still preserved a very observable old table in the writing
school, over which, on the election day, the old mayor breaks his rod. It appears,
from the style of some of its ornaments, as old as Henry VI.'s time."
The "Spitle Almous House," mentioned in St. John's Register, September, 1592,
stood between the chapel and Westgate Street, in the ground now called the "Town's
Yard." The "six poor unmarried brothers" lived in a large room, and were attended
every day by a woman, who kept their hall clean and cooked their victuals. An old
nmate stated to one of the brothers, now living, that they were paid 5s. each every
week, and lived very comfortably. In Bourne's plan of the town, the Spital Almshouse stands on the west side of the gate leading to the Grammar-school. Brand
says, "it was pulled down not many years ago, and a handsome house erected on its
scite." Perhaps the alms-house was a distinct building, which has been confounded
with the ancient hospital. However, the poor brothers were removed, above fifty
years ago, to a house in the Pudding Chare, nearly opposite to Rosemary Lane.
Each has a room and two fothers of coals in the year, with six pounds in cash, or
about two shillings and four-pence per week.*